Marketplace serves a taste of Finland

Chelsea Birdsall

The Upper Peninsula has a distinct culture that has been heavily influenced by the Finnish immigrants of the late nineteenth century. In an attempt to raise awareness for its uniqueness, dining services introduced Heikki Lunta, the Yooper snow god, to the Marketplace on Monday, Jan. 12.

Dining Marketing Manager Stephanie Raboin was a driving force behind the project. The idea for the event originated in the minds of the dining managers in hopes of creating a unique event for the students.

re-_MG_3965“We wanted something fun to do for the students that was unique as well as educational,” Raboin said.

The goal of the event was to make it unique in order to enter it into a contest held by the National Association of College and University Food Services under the Loyal E. Horton Dining Award, a nationwide contest to provide credit for unique menus, event planning and new dining concepts as well as presentation. A scrapbook will be created full of essays and pictures of the event and will be submitted to the judges, Raboin said.

The idea to incorporate Heikki Lunta as the celebratory guest of honor was due to its origin as a Finnish-American mythological creature and the fact that many students, especially those not native to the Upper Peninsula, do not recognize it, Raboin said. Fun facts were posted on the tables to give students insight on similarities between the two cultures. Raboin shared a fact about saunas that may not have been known before.

“In Finland, there’s 5 million people and roughly 3.5 million saunas, which is a lot,” Raboin said. “In the U.P. it’s like this select pocket where there is also a lot of saunas and it’s not weird to us and it’s directly from the Finnish influence here.”

Among the facts posted on the tables was the story of Heikki Lunta. Heikki Lunta began in the 1970s in the Keweenaw Peninsula during a winter without snow. The Range Snowmobile Club went to a radio broadcaster at WMPL, Dave Riutta, who created a song about Heikki Lunta, the U.P. snow god.

Listeners requested it be played all day. Snow fell the next morning and continued to fall for days without stopping. Heikki Lunta represents the abundance of snow we receive and is a symbol for good luck.

In honor of Heikki Lunta’s Finnish influence, the Marketplace was decorated top to bottom with silver, white and blue in celebration of snow and Finland. According to Raboin, it was decorated to highlight Finnish heritage, snow and welcome in the new semester.

Dishes native to Finland were served throughout the day to give students a unique opportunity to taste something different. Breakfast consisted of normal breakfast foods with a Finnish twist including Finnish pancakes, trenary toast and danishes. Lunch consisted of pea soup, smashed potatoes and Raisa-Mummo’s cabbage rolls. Dinner included Anna-Lisa Takkanen’s karelian pies, deep fried smelt and beet risotto. The recipes for cabbage rolls and karelian pies came directly from one of the three Finnish students that currently attend Northern.

Erin Gervasi, a food service level two employee in the Marketplace’s kitchen, was excited to try new recipes.

“I enjoyed trying the new recipes and we had plenty of prep time to pull together all the ingredients for the different dishes,” Gervasi said. “We really got a chance to get to know the recipes well before making them and it was nice to see all the components finally come together.”

Sophomore athletic training major Conor Chadwell said he really enjoyed the food and the opportunity it presented.

“It was really interesting and I thought it gave us an opportunity to taste food we may not have ever tasted before,” Chadwell said. “I’d never tasted elk before and it was surprisingly good.”

Gervasi was excited to incorporate the strong Finnish heritage into the menu, since not every student is from the U.P.

“Students that come from other areas might not realize how important our ancestry has influenced our lives, especially through the meals that are passed down from generation to generation,” Gervasi said. “It was fun to put some sisu into our food.”

Gervasi is not the only one to notice how important the Finnish heritage is. Daniel Truckey, director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center, feels strongly about the Finnish heritage and its sense of sisu.

“Yooper culture is highly influenced by the Finnish culture,” Truckey said. “This includes the way we speak, the food we eat, music, and also our attitude, a sense of what the Finns call sisu, a strong inner-determination, a strength in the face of adversity and all Yooper culture is defined by this character of independence.”

According to Truckey, in the late nineteenth century, Finnish immigrants came looking for work and it directly coincided with the U.P.’s need for iron and copper mine workers.

The Finns already had an affinity for the area due to its similar climate and topography, so once they saved enough money, they bought land to farm and started many farming communities throughout the U.P. They spread out and proliferated leaving many Finnish-founded towns in their wake.

A big part of these towns were the Finn halls. Finn halls held large events ranging from political gatherings to dances. The dances were important because music was important to the Finnish population. Since music is a huge part of the culture, Raboin wanted to incorporate that into the snow festival and Truckey made it happen with his connections to the Finnish heritage in Marquette.

Finnish Reggae band, Conga Se Menne, performed live in the Marketplace during dinner. Chadwell mentioned the band in his praise of the event.

“The band was awesome and the Marketplace definitely did a really good job showing us Finnish traditions,” Chadwell said. “I was amazed at how much work they put in. It’s the most I’ve seen since I’ve been at school here.”

Raboin commented that it did take some effort on all parts but everyone was cooperative and participated fully.

“It’s a big event,” Raboin said. “To do something like this in as large of a facility as the Marketplace takes a lot of teamwork to be able to pull it off.”

Truckey said he was in full support of what the event brought to campus as far as implementing the Finnish culture.

“It’s really cool that they did this,” Truckey said. “It’s a great way to bring local culture onto campus and give the students a feel for what the U.P. and the culture is about.”